A French aristocrat, Pierre de Coubertin, came up with the idea of reviving the Olympic Games of ancient Greece, as he believed athletic events could lead to peaceful engagement between countries.
As a child, Coubertin had witnessed the defeat of the French by a formidable Prussian army in 1871. And as he grew up, Coubertin became convinced that his nation's lack of physical education contributed to its defeat.
In the 1880s Coubertin traveled to study how other nations provided physical education, and he became convinced that the future of mankind would benefit from athletic activity. He began advocating for international athletic competitions.
With Coubertin's encouragement, the International Olympic Committee was formed in 1894, and two years later the first modern Olympic games were held in Athens, Greece.
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Photograph: Pierre de Coubertin/Library of Congress
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